Holiday cheer is what you make of it.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” – Dr. Suess

 

For many years I held strong to the idea that I whole heartedly dislike Christmas. I didn’t feel the Christmas spirit, delight in the stockings strung with glee, or engage in any sort of caroling. Christmas wasn’t my thing. I understood the Grinch and his reasons for wanting that damned singing to stop.

As a child I was one of those rare kids who didn’t make any lists, write letters to Santa, or sneak around to catch glimpses of the old man trying to get close to our Christmas tree. Yes, I liked the toys and treats that always came on that day, but the emotional connections to Christmas was never there for me as it is for so many. Instead I saw how difficult it was for so many. I was sad when I saw the lines for Christmas toys donated by Toys for Tots and wondered how those parents must feel having to ask someone else to provide the joy for their children.

christmas 2007

I know I wasn’t the easiest kid around the holidays. I didn’t want to be forced to dress up and pretend that I was enjoying something I actually didn’t agree with. I hated being forced to sit on “Santa’s” lap for the holiday photo and pretend that I hadn’t been screamed at moments before for not having the right attitude about Christmas. What I wanted was to actually feel something warm and fuzzy, an emotional reaction.  I just didn’t.

As an adult I collected reasons as to why Christmas was a waste of time, money, and parking tickets. ( Yes, I actually got a parking ticket once on Christmas Eve while waiting in the parking lot of a Wal-mart on the elusive hunt for the perfect gift.) I really struggled as a mother of trying to instill in my children the spirit of giving and joy that the holidays are supposed to bring when I was feeling so lost as to why exactly we were spending more money than we had, dragging ourselves to exhaustion in order to get all of the scheduled festivities accomplished so we weren’t missing something, and really wishing I felt like I was enjoying the process.

Later on in life I married a wonderful man and adopted his Jewish faith. I love the community and practice of Judaism and the holidays actually have rituals and meaning. Yet even when Hanukkah comes around, I don’t get that overwhelming urge to sing and dance around the menorah.  Instead what I have learned about the holidays has come from being a mother of now grown children.

English: Four children reading the book How th...

I have learned that the holidays are not calendar events with strict timetables. My children have had to work on holidays, spent time with their significant others, and sometimes just not felt like celebrating. We have postponed holidays until it works out for us.  Sometimes weeks later we find the time to gather together and just enjoy the time we have. We don’t need to exchange gifts or make it a huge ordeal, we love each other and that’s all we need.

I’ve had to change my attitude about how I feel about the holidays if I want to actually enjoy the life I am so lucky to have. I can’t fault my children for having a negative attitude if I am constantly spouting off lines from the Grinch. You get what you put into it. Nobody else is accountable for how I feel about the holidays, only me.

You won’t win every war, no matter how stubborn you think you want to be. My husband and I usually disagree on how much to spend on holiday gifts.  I like to indulge our children but feel a little bit of a tighter budget when it comes to nieces and nephews. Where my husband has the idea that we support our kids all year, we don’t have to go crazy over the holidays but the little cousins get a nice holiday bonus.  It’s a fight we engage in each year.  Sometimes we find a happy medium. But truthfully, I know that this battle against the gift giving isn’t a battle against my husband for who is right, it is a battle against myself.

I learned that I actually do have some fond holiday memories. My favorite ones were wearing my footie pajamas, climbing up next to my great-grandmother and watching Rudolf, Charlie Brown, and the other children’s shows.  She would snuggle me close and we would spend time together quietly.  When she was gone the one thing I wanted more of was being comforted and safe next to her, very little was said, but words weren’t needed.  She loved me with all of her heart and I adored her. Now when I see Rudolf light up his red nose and go save the toys, I think of those nights and know that there was something special there.

So the holidays for me no longer hold the sting they once did. I have let go of my old reasons for hating the Christmas event and found that what I actually enjoy most is that for one month out of the year my friends and family laugh a little more, take time from busy schedules, and we all have learned to stay out of Wal-mart.

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